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  • 03.05.13

And THEN She Said That Gossip Helps Your Career!

Word at the water cooler is that gossip can give your career a lift. Here’s how to be savvy (and never nasty) about it.

And THEN She Said That Gossip Helps Your Career!

Not talking about people behind their backs can, apparently, do you harm–at least in the workplace.

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“You’re going to dismiss all kinds of information that could be useful to you, your career, and your work,” University of Kentucky management professor Joe LaBianca tells HBR writer Amy Gallo. What you’re missing out on if you eschew office word of mouth: who landed what deal, the CEO’s taste in projects, why everybody’s suddenly out of the office.

Still, as your mother told you, gossip can get you in hot water. If you’re talking bad about peoples’ personal lives, you’ve gone too far–and the people you’re blabbing to will remember your turncoat ways. While gossiping can gain trust if you’re telling someone something positive in confidence, it can lose trust if you sound like a secret-slipping jerk.

To that end, Gallo has a few fast-talking principles:

  • Gossip to gain info
  • Mind the medium, since email lingers.
  • Consider at how you look when you’re yakking
  • Nip that negative gossip in the bud, you knight in open-eared armor.

If you are going to gossip–and let’s face it, if you’re reading this, you probably are–talk only with colleagues that you know will keep mum on your mumblings. If you’re talking bad (and you shouldn’t), when the subject of your slander finds out about your news-gathering, it will be bad headlines for you.

So what should you do if you want to expand your gawking network to a secret-encumbered colleague?

“Trade small, harmless pieces of information at first,” Gallo writes. “Then evaluate your colleague’s trustworthiness before moving on to more important topics.”

And be sure to trade some juicy details back. Just don’t tell them that Fast Company told you.

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About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.

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